4801 Victoria Drive
88 Supermarket is one of the many reasons why I feel privileged living in the East Side.
As an avid cook and general enthusiast in all things pertaining food, I’m always on the lookout for great sources for ingredients. When I am cooking Southeast Asian food, I would usually head on over to stock up.
4140 Meridian Street
I love to eat at ethnic hole-in-the-wall restaurants. These little joints plug away making tasty food oblivious to the ongoing debates about culinary authenticity and ethnicity. This insulation from such gastronomic banter is what makes good holes-in-the-wall so endearing and finding them such a satisfying experience. One such place is the humble La Gloria – part restaurant and part grocery store – located just south of the 49th parallel in Bellingham WA.
It is no secret that Vancouver has dearth of decent Mexican food. It is an issue of demographics and immigration patterns, of course. We just do not have the population of Mexican immigrants to support many authentic Mexican restaurants. La Gloria serves some of the tastiest and most authentic Mexican food within a day’s drive of Vancouver.
Atlas Specialty Supermarket and Persian Cuisine
100-1000 9 Avenue SW
Calgary, AB T2P 2Y6
I was asked an interesting question today. “What do you think will be the next big cuisine? Japanese has taken off. Vietnamese before that. What’s next?” In thinking about this, I realized that the food trends over the past 10 years have quite a few similarities. First off, they’re ethnic that are becoming mainstream. Secondly, they have an abundance of flavour, yet with approachable ingredients (sushi would be the exception – that was quite the shock to the North American palette, and based on how many people mean “rolls” when they say they like sushi, i’d still say it is), and lastly, they are healthier than many traditional Western and European fare. Might it be Persian? It’s possible. There are an increasing number of kabob houses starting to open – which are generally Afghani, Iraqi, or Persian. The cuisine is quite healthy, has an abundance of flavour, and approachable ingredients. We might have a winner!
Atlas Specialty Supermarket and Persian Cuisine is a combination restaurant and supermarket, definitely a combination I find odd. While you often find takeout and grocery combined, rarely do you see a nice, well appointed room combined with groceries. However, it’s easy access to some of my favorite spices like sumac, and ingredients like pomegranate paste, so i don’t mind getting my shopping done while i eat.
As previously mentioned, the room is a clean, well appointed, comfortable affair. Much longer than it is wide, it comfortably seats 30-40. It is often completely full on weekends, when it is usually difficult to get a table. Weekdays i find are hit and miss. Sometimes, completely empty. Sometimes, you’re turned away, or encouraged to order take out. If you get a table, they are spartan, yet comfortable. No complaints here.
Persian food has similarities to other Middle Eastern cultures, primarily Afghani, Iraqi, as well as similarities in grilled meat with the Turks. As we order, we decide to try the traditional Iranian drink doogh ($2.50) with the meal - a mix of soda, yogurt, and mint. We made the incorrect assumption that this would function similar to a lassi in Indian cuisine – quench some of the heat, while providing a flavourful and complementary balance to the food. On the contrary, we found it difficult to finish, and while it complimented the khoresht (stew) reasonably well, it killed the flavour of the grilled meat. I would not order it again.
For food, we order a khorest – Ghormeh Sabzi ($13.99) to be exact, and a platter of grilled meat ($31.99) – koobideh, steak and chicken. The platter comes with the typical accompaniments – rice, grilled tomato and onions.
The rice itself is good. A kateh (butter-enhanced rice) decorated with some saffron color and onions, it is both flavourful, and extremely fluffy. The richness goes well with the depth of the grilled meat. I find it’s a good balance with some of the more acidic, sweeter khoreshts, but not as good with the rich, creamier khorests. Bread would probably be a better choice for those.
The Ghormeh Sabzi is a khoresht made of mixed greens (herbs, spinach, and cilantro), and cooked with kidney beans, meat, and citrus, to produce a fragrant, tangy, yet slightly sweet stew. It’s good, but a touch oily, and not quite enough chunks of lamb for my liking. Good flavour though.
The grilled platter has many similarities to the kinds of kebabs served in most other Middle Eastern cultures – and there’s definitely nothing wrong with that! A couple of spiced ground meat (koobideh) kebabs, generally my favorite, are excellent. Flavourful, well spiced, and nicely caramelized on the exterior. The barg (beef in this case) is good, but really just chunks of seasoned meat on a skewer. The chicken is good – flavourful, tender, and not overcooked. Easy to share, and tasty to boot, this dish is an easy introduction for people learning to appreciate other flavours.
Overall, the food at Atlas Supermarket and Persian Cuisine is flavourful, and quite consistent. And just as importantly, the value seems to be there. Khoreshts are small servings, but reasonably good deals, priced similar to an Indian curry. The grill is where some find it a bit pricey – $32 for a platter for two isn’t cheap, but as long as you arent a meat glutton, then it will serve 2 people comfortably. We shared the khoresht and the platter among three people, and left a little bit of food behind. Not bad for $50.
Thinking on it some more, I feel predicting the next “big cuisine” is difficult. Typically, I find the trends of the West Coast generally filter their way across slowly, which means we can usually predict Calgary’s next restaurant shift based on what is popular there a year ago. And Persian food, while somewhat popular, is a long way from sharing the same success that other cuisines have had on the coast. Calgary seems to have a bigger Middle Eastern population, so im not sure if it’ll catch on or not. Which is too bad, as the food is approachable, flavourful, and reasonably priced. Something that should easily succeed here.
1325 1 Street SE
Original post below:
A L’Epicerie is a term used throughout France to designate a grocery or general store. Originally a spice counter, these stores now sell a variety of items, usually including charcuterie, dry goods, produce, meats and cheeses.
In Calgary, L’Epicerie is the name of a french deli opened up by Dominique Moussu, executive chef of Teatro. Conveniently located in the same complex as Manuel Latrouwe, and Bernard Callebaut just south of downtown, they have joined forces to create a premium food “destination”. All three businesses carry items positioned as high end, and this can only help them generate additional sales. At L’Epicerie, this includes things like their own terrines, gravlox, french cheeses (Epoisse!), Magret Duck breasts, Haricots Tarbais and other hard to find French items. A lot of this stuff is imported directly from France, and very difficult to otherwise find.
My experiences there have been generally very positive. Their service has been phenomenal, if sometimes just a touch slow. But I really don’t mind – this isn’t the express lane at your local supermarket, this is an Epicerie! Like many new places however, they have had some difficulty with pricing. While I am pleased to note that prices have stabilized at a something a bit more reasonable (moving in the right direction anyway), the prices have been dropped a few times on several items I consistently purchase. While the prices are not for the faint of heart, they do provide access to some otherwise difficult to find ingredients.
In terms of take out/ready to eat, they primarily serve sandwiches. I first paid $18 for a full sandwich. New prices have changed to $7 and $14 for a half or full sandwich respectively. These sandwiches are made on fresh bread, with all high quality ingredients. I had the terrine of foie gras, which included arugula, moutard, and great bread. While it might not be worth $18, the quality of the terrine made for a very decadent, and enjoyable experience. And now it costs $14, so even better!
My favorite thing that they carry are fresh-made potato chips. The first time i went, i ordered these because they were the least expensive thing i could buy, and gracefully leave with without looking sheepish. I wasn’t quite prepared for the price. They were $6 for a small bag if you’re curious. However, i loved them. Crisp, rich potato flavour with some great salt, these are sublime chips. Then their price dropped, making it only somewhat ridiculous in price ($4.50). Then they changed the potato they used, and they actually taste better. As a treat, I will occassionaly pick up a bag, but these are steep prices for day-to-day living. My waistline is quite relieved by this fact, as at $2-$3 for a small bag, I’d be there every day. I love my potato chips.
L’Epicerie is an interesting idea for Calgary, but I worry about its potential longevity. If a downturn in the economy occurs, I have a difficult time imaging people continuing to spend loads of money on many pricey french items they’ve had no experience cooking with, or utilizing. Some element of education maybe be necessary to explain why some of these ingredients are worth the cost. Very friendly and nice, i wish nothing but the best for them. The fact they continue to refine their price shows they care about their succeeding, and do listen to feedback. However, they might have been better off aiming for something a bit more affordable to the general masses. The bottom line though, if you’re in the market for some french rarities or high quality ingredients, wanting to try bistro or brasserie type food at home, L’Epicerie is the store for you.